Our brains and this world are not made to make us happy

In evolutionary psychology, it’s common to point out that our organism and nervous system is not made primarily for lasting happiness. It’s made to help us survive.

Of course, we experience happiness in periods, and some seem to have a higher set-point for happiness than others. Also, we can certainly experience a more stable contentment or a sense of gratitude, and that may be as good or better than happiness.

Perhaps this also goes for the world in general. It’s not created to make us happy.

If anything, it’s made for adventure. This world is the universe, existence, or life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

And, if we have a spiritual orientation, we can say that this world – this universe and all of existence – is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Some call this lila.

Personally, I would take survival and adventure over happiness any day. If our human organism and brain were not made for survival, none of us would be here. To me, adventure is far more interesting than happiness. And as icing on the cake, we can still find contentment and gratitude, and even receive periods of happiness.

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Why do we love our land? An evolutionary perspective on landscape

When it comes to understanding anything human, I often do a quick check-in with an evolutionary perspective. And the same obviously goes for understanding the behavior of any species.

My wife and I are stewards of beautiful land in the Andes mountains.

Why do we see it as so beautiful? Why do we feel so connected with it?

We fell in love with it within seconds of our first visit. And it feels as if the land chose us as much as we chose it.

OUR ANCESTRAL HOME

One answer, which came up in my environmental psychology classes at the University of Utah, is that humanity comes from the Great Rift Valley in Africa so we are naturally drawn to that type of landscape. It’s our ancestral home. We love open landscapes with trees and shade. It’s the environment we co-evolved with.

Our pre-human ancestors likely lived for innumerable generations in that landscape, and our first human-like ancestors lived there before they started migrating out to the rest of the world.

In this case, there is a clear similarity between this land and the landscape of the Great Rift Valley. (Not surprising since both are close to the equator and about the same elevation.)

Many if not most of the ancestors in me feel at home there.

BIOPHILIA

There is also a much deeper and general reason for our love – and sometimes fear – of nature.

We are nature. So we love, and sometimes fear, nature.

The universe is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy, a whole with wholes within it.

It’s also an evolving system, expressed through and as – among everything else in the universe – our living and evolving planet and us as a species and individuals.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

When we look into the universe, we are looking back at ourselves. When we experience nature, we are experiencing ourselves.

We co-evolved with all of it.

We find nature beautiful because we recognize ourselves in and as it, whether we are conscious of it or not.

THE LANDSCAPES WE ARE ATTRACTED TO

At a more conventional level, there are other reasons why we tend to find nature beautiful, and why we are especially drawn to certain landscapes.

Our ancestors lived with, from, and as nature, so it makes sense to be attracted to nature. It helped them survive. (Neutrality or aversion would not be so productive.)

It makes sense that we tend to be attracted to open landscapes. Having a view helped our ancestors to survive. They could see prey, friends, and enemies from far away and prepare accordingly.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to green landscapes. For our ancestors, it made sense to be drawn to green landscapes since it means vegetation, and vegetation means shade, protection, and food.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to moderate climates, for obvious reasons.

It makes sense that we are attracted to running water since it means fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooking food.

Many love sitting by a bonfire or a fireplace, or even just a candle. For our ancestors, these types of smaller and controlled fires meant food, warmth, protection, and community.

The ones who were drawn to these features of nature were more likely to survive and they passed these inclinations on to their descendants, including us.

And it makes equal sense we are afraid of or slightly repulsed by certain things in nature. Most of us have some fear of heights, and this fear has helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations. We tend to have some fear of snakes and some insects for the same reason. We avoid places that smell musty, moldy, or rotten.

Our ancestors who experienced some fear or repulsion to these things were more likely to survive, have children, and pass these tendencies on to us.

CULTURE AND ANYTHING HUMAN

Human culture and anything human – all our experiences, thoughts, and feelings – are obviously part of the seamless whole of existence. It’s all the evolution of the universe and this living planet expressing itself in these ways, through and as us and our experiences.

We obviously find a lot in humans and culture beautiful. But not always. Why is that?

Again, an evolutionary perspective can give us answers. If we see an open and infested wound, it makes sense to experience some repulsion since it can help us not get infected. If we meet someone who is chronically caught up in anger, blame, or similar, feeling less attracted to it can help us to avoid problems. If we see a building or village in disrepair, it may be best to find another place to go. And so on. (This is obviously a very simplified outline.)

On a more immediate level, what we find beautiful and not has to do with how we relate to our thoughts about it. If we believe our thoughts about something or someone, it will often create attraction or aversion.

HOLDING IT LIGHTLY

As usual, it makes sense to hold all of this lightly.

An evolutionary perspective on psychology and behavior helps us arrive at educated guesses at most. It’s not something we can verify once and for all.

Personally, I often use it to find more understanding and empathy for myself and others. I find a plausible explanation in an evolutionary context, and that helps me see that our experiences and behavior are not as personal as they first may seem. It all comes from somewhere else.

Note: The photo above is from our land in the Chicamocha Canyon.

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Wanting to know how fiction ends

Why do we have an impulse to know how compelling fiction ends?

FICTION CAN GO IN ANY NUMBER OF DIRECTIONS

I have often thought it’s a bit silly.

The story is made up anyway. It can go in a number of widely different directions.

It’s easy to imagine alternate endings that the author plausibly could have chosen. The reason the author landed on a particular ending may be because ofpersonal fascination, wanting to subvert expectations, wanting to draw in an audience, wanting to highlight a particular feature of human life, setting it up for the next part, practical or resource reasons, or something else.

Sometimes, the ending we looked forward to can even be disappointing, as we have seen in a recent TV series (GoT) and final movie trilogy (SW).

If this was the whole picture, there would be little or no reason to want to know how a story ends. So there must be something more going on.

EVOLUTIONARY IMPULSE TO TAKE IN STORIES

One answer may be in evolution. We have likely evolved to be fascinated by stories since these told our ancestors something important about themselves, their community, and their world. Stories gave them a survival advantage.

It’s easy to see how this is the case with stories from real life. The way the story is told reflects community values and orientations, so the listener gets to absorb these. And the content can offer practical information about social interactions, interactions with nature and wildlife, how to deal with unusual events that may return, and so on.

To some extent, fiction – mythology, fairy tales, tall tales – did the same. Fiction also conveyed cultural values and orientations. It gave people insights into interactions within the community and with outsiders and the natural world, and so on.

And it’s easy to see that the ending is an important part of the value of all of these stories.

Taking in compelling stories, from beginning to end, gave our ancestors a survival advantage.

GOOD FICTION REFLECTS DEEPER TRUTHS

There is an obvious value in stories from real life. We learn through the experience of others and how they chose to tell the stories.

And compelling fiction does the same, in a heightened form. Good fiction distills the essence out of real-life stories and reflects universal human truths. They are a way for us to learn something essential about ourselves, others, and the world.

NO CLEAR LINE BETWEEN STORIES FROM REAL LIFE AND FICTION

There is a fuzzy boundary between stories from real life and fiction.

When we tell stories from real life, we inevitably interpret, filter, highlight, leave out, and get things wrong. The story reflects us and what we find important, our worldview and values, our hangups and limitations, and so on. As we know, these stories are often told quite differently by others.

And compelling fiction reflects universal human dynamics and insights and has a deeper truth.

There is always an element of fiction in stories from real life, and elements of real life in fiction.

WHY DO WE WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING?

So why do we want to know the ending of fiction? Even if it’s obviously silly since the story is made up anyway?

One answer may be evolution. It gave our ancestors a survival advantage to take in stories, told by others in their community, from beginning to end.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of simplicity and clarity here. I have had a quite strong brain fog for a few weeks, and it makes it difficult to write with flow and clarity. Hopefully, I can return and clean this up a bit.

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The upside of discomfort

Physical discomfort has obvious upsides and evolutionary reasons for being here. It motivates us to make changes that helps our body, whether it’s standing up to walk when we have sat for a long period, drinking water when thirsty, or seeking out a doctor when we have a persistent physical pain or problem.

It’s the same with mind discomfort. That too has evolutionary reasons for being here. That too motivates us to create change and get things done.

And, for those weird like me, it also points to what’s left. It helps us notice remaining beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds, and trauma. And it motivates us to do something about it – to find healing in how we relate to it and the world, to examine and find clarity around beliefs and identifications, to invite release for our wounds and traumas.

In the bigger picture, discomfort motivates us – in the best case – to align more consciously with reality.

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Making use of how people already are

Human behavior is often irrational. We tend to focus on what’s immediate, dramatic, and emotional. We are drawn to what’s shocking and unusual rather than long-term trends. We are more interested in this morning’s dramatic death than the thousands dying of hunger each day. We are more interested in what Trump tweeted at 5am than increasing social inequality.

The media knows that and plays into it by making news into entertainment and drama. That’s how they get viewers and readers. That’s how they maximize profit. They too act in their short-term interest.

And all of it is from evolution. For our ancestors, it was important to pay attention to anything that stood out and anything dramatic, and they rarely needed to pay attention to the big picture or slow trends. It’s how we, as a species, survived.

In a democracy, we need to get people to pay more attention to the serious and slower trends, and less on shorter term drama and entertainment. And we can do just that by taking evolution and how people really function into account, instead of wishful thinking about how people “should” function.

If we have sufficiently informed political and business leaders, we can set up structures so that what’s easy and attractive is also good in the long term and in the big picture.

And we can speak to people in general in ways that work with the mechanisms put into us by evolution: Tell compelling stories. Make it simple, immediate, and personal. Show how it aligns with the values and identities they already have. Make it genuinely attractive.

There are two more facets to this. Some of us seem wired to look more at the big picture and think about things in a more dispassionate way. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As a species and community, we generally need many who are drawn to the immediate and a few drawn to the bigger picture.

And there is another reason why many tend to avoid thinking about the big picture: they feel they are unable to do anything about it. So we can add one more element to how to work with how people already function: Show that their actions do make a real difference. And make that too immediate, personal, and emotional.

Co-sleeping and evolution

I often use an evolutionary perspective to check how I live my life.

For instance, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense to eat mostly less processed food, locally and with the seasons, low on the food chain, and varied foods (mainly vegetables with some fish and meat, and not the same every day). In terms of exercise, it makes sense with variation (walking, running, lifting, swimming), and to vary moderate activity with briefer periods of more explosive and intense activity. It also makes sense to bring it into everyday activities as much as possible. And in terms of child rearing, it makes sense to seek out a community (extended family, if possible) and also to carry the baby on the body and to sleep in the same bed as the baby. All of these things are how humans have done it for millennia and how our evolutionary ancestors have done it for millions of years. If there is a discrepancy between what experts recommend, and what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, I tend to choose the latter. (For instance, eating butter, eggs, and salt, all of which feel really good for my body in moderate amounts.)

I talked with a friend a couple of weeks ago about her new baby. She sleeps in the same bed as the baby (the baby usually on top of her), and it makes feeding natural and effortless for both of them. The baby stirs gently, she wakes and feeds the baby with just a few adjustments of her body, and they both fall back to sleep. It’s effortless, natural, and minimally disruptive to sleep.

In contrast, if we believe what someone came up with intellectually, we may choose to have the baby sleep separately which means the baby needs to make more sound to wake the mother (be more desperate), the mother needs to get up to feed the baby, the baby needs to be lifted, and it’s all far more disruptive and stressful. It can even be somewhat traumatizing to both of them, and especially to the baby. In an evolutionary perspective, sleeping alone and having to cry loudly to be fed is a signal it is not safe. And when that happens consistently, I imagine it has an impact on the child’s trust and sense of safety, and it’s something they may carry with them through childhood and into adulthood.

I know this is a bit simplistic. For instance, our ancestors’ lives varied over generations and was adapted to geography and climate. And I still find it a very helpful guideline.

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Identification = worried love

Why is there suffering?

That’s an old questions for us humans. (I realize that the real question, the one behind this one, is what can we do about it? That’s a topic for other posts.)

One answer is perhaps equally old: Suffering comes from beliefs. Identification with certain thoughts. Velcro. Mistaken identity.

These point to the same thing: Mind takes certain thoughts, certain images and thoughts, as real and true. It identifies with these thoughts. It takes their viewpoint. It sees the world from their perspective, and holds onto it as true. And it does that through associating these images and words with certain sensations (often different depending on the thought), and these sensations seem – to the mind – to lend solidity and reality to the thoughts.

Why does the mind do this?

It may be because we observe those around us doing it, as kids and later as adults. It seems to be what people do here. So we do it too. And we pass it on.

It may have an evolutionary function. Perhaps the stress created an extra urgency that somehow has offered a survival advantage for our ancestors. An advantage that outweighed the drawbacks of stress, struggle, and conflict.

It may also be a quirk of evolution. We evolved that way, to be inclined to identify with thoughts rather than recognizing them as thoughts, through a coincidence. Perhaps it could have gone a different direction. (I am not so sure about that, but it’s possible.)

It may also be that since thoughts – abstract representations using words and images – is a relatively new phenomenon in our evolution, we still haven’t quite figured out how to relate to it well. We are still novices when it comes to using this tool called thought. So we stumble. It’s still messy. And perhaps sometime in the future, we as a species will relate to it with more clarity.

In any case, it’s innocent.

And it’s Lila. The universe expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. The dance of life. Divine play.

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Evolution of the spirit

The idea of an evolution of the Spirit is of course just that, an idea.

The image of Spiritual evolution, stages, phases, changing characteristics, data, people supporting and talking about it, are all images happening within and as the mental field. Any sense it’s real and true happens because the thought that’s it’s true is taken as true. Any idea of it being inherent in reality is just that, an idea and an image. If I take the thought of spiritual evolution as true, I’ll perceive, feel and live as if it’s true.

When this idea is examined more closely, it’s freed from being taken as true, and can still be quite helpful in some situations. It can be inspiring and interesting for some, it may serve as a hook or a first step into own exploration, it may offer a temporary sense of knowing or safety – along with some stress (!).

Spirit (reality, God, Big Mind) can be talked about has having several facets. One is capacity for awareness and it’s contents (aka Godhead). Another is as awareness and any experience happening within and as awareness. And yet another is the world of experiences and form. Even within the context of those distinctions, they are the same. (It’s the play of Spirit as capacity, as a seamless whole of awareness and it’s contents, appearing to itself in these three ways when filtered through an image of these three ways.) And I can only find those distinctions within my images, within my mental field overlay.

Evolves and doesn’t

As capacity and awareness, it’s easy to assume it stays the same. As form, it – according to the story of the universe from current western science – it evolves over time, from energy to simple hydrogen atoms to heavier elements to the earth coming into life to ecosystems, species, humans, culture, technology, science and everything happening within and through us humans. So in that sense, Spirit evolves. It evolves as form. It doesn’t evolve and it does, and that’s happening as images within the mental field.

Types of evolution

What are some of the types and mechanisms of this evolution? It’s a while since I explored this, so will just mention it briefly here.

As mentioned above, the universe seems to evolve over time from simplicity to complexity, from energy to matter to life. This form of evolution may be best explained through systems theories.

It may also happen through the mechanisms of biological/Darwinian evolution: variation, selection, reproduction etc. This has brought us humans to where we are today, with out biological possibilities and limitations. One interesting question here is the relationship between clarity on thoughts and evolution. Is there a biological tendency in us to take thoughts as true, or is it just learned and from culture? If there is this biological tendency, how did it come about? Has it been selected because it aids survival? To me, it seems that being more clear on thoughts aids healthy functioning and survival. It may be more likely that (a) too few people found this clarity to have an impact, (b) the selection pressure hasn’t been strong enough to select it out on a larger scale, and/or (c) although clarity on thoughts aids an healthy functioning, this may not translate into more children. Still, it’s possible that our biological evolution moves us in this direction, from a tendency to taking thoughts as true to a tendency to be more clear on thoughts. Or not.

It may happen through evolution of culture. Looking at the changes in human culture over time, from neolithic to today, we see different phases and stages. This can be seen as a meme evolution, driven by material, cultural and psychological factors.

Each of these maps of different types of evolution are from current western science. These maps and the data supporting them are images within my world of images. Recognizing that, through inquiry, they can be very helpful practical guidelines in some situations. Taking them as true, they become – among other things – a burden for me, a source of stress.

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Fascination with scary stories

Why are we – some of us – fascinated by scary stories?

I find a few different ways of looking at it.

Evolution

In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that we are drawn to explore scary things through stories. It helps us mentally prepare for similar situations in our own life. We get more familiar with the possible situations and how we may react, we get a bit desensitized to these types of situations so we may be more calm if or when something similar happens in our own life, and we get a chance to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it.

Beliefs

When I take a story about something scary as true, my attention tends to be drawn to these beliefs and what they are about. Again, it’s an invitation to mentally explore these situations in a safe setting, and how I may deal with it if something similar should happen in the real world. It’s also an invitation to explore these beliefs in themselves. Are they realistic? What’s more realistic? What’s more true for me? 

An impulse to wholeness as who I am, this human self

What I see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. So far, I have found how each one of my stories of the wider world – including anything scary – equally well applies to me. As long as I think some human quality or characteristic is only out there in the world, or only in me, it’s painful and uncomfortable. When I find it both in the wider world and in me, there is a sense of coming home and it’s much more comfortable. In this sense, being drawn to scary stories in an invitation for me to use it as a mirror, to find in myself what I see out there in the world, and whether the scary story is from “real life” or made up doesn’t matter much.

Finding a characteristic both in the wider world and myself, I can also relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner, so this impulse to find wholeness also makes sense in an evolutionary perspective.

An impulse to clarity as what I am 

There is also an invitation to find clarity here. When I take a story as true, it’s uncomfortable. And finding more clarity on the story, it’s more comfortable. So when I am drawn to what I think of as scary stories, there is an invitation for me to identify and investigate any stressful belief that may come up. Through this, what I am – clarity and love, that which any experience and image happens within and as – notices itself more easily.

I also see that when I take a story as true I tend to get caught up in reactive emotions and one-sided views, and finding more clarity helps me function in a more healthy, kind and informed way in the world.

Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am

It makes evolutionary sense for me to be drawn to scary stories in all of these ways. (a) I become more familiar with the different scenarios of what may happen and how I desensitize to scary situations to some extent, so I can be more calm if or when something similar happens in my own life. I get to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it, in a safe setting and before it happens. (b) I am invited to investigate my beliefs about it and find what’s more realistic and true for me. (c) I am invited to find in myself what I see in the wider world, which helps me relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner. (d) And there is no end to the stories I can investigate, including my most basic assumptions about myself and the world, which helps me function in the world from more clarity, kindness and wisdom. Each of these support my survival and ability to reproduce and raise offspring.

All of these also make psychological sense. It helps me function in the world, and find a sense of wholeness as who I am.

It all makes spiritual sense. It helps this human self – the infinite experiencing itself as finite – survive and function in the world. It’s an invitation for what I am to more easily notice itself.

And all of these perspectives – evolution, psychology and spirituality – converge in one sense, and are the same in another.

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Evolution and inquiry

I often have an evolutionary perspective in the back of my mind when I explore something in my own life or on this blog, and yet don’t mention it so often.

So what are some of the connection between evolution and inquiry?

One basic connection is how evolution sets us with certain impulses and inclinations, and these may be supported by or clash with beliefs.

For instance, we have an innate impulse to survive and reproduce, which may be joined or supported by beliefs such as: I need to survive. It’s terrible to die young. I need a partner. I need sex. I need to have children. I need food. 

Some beliefs that may clash with our biological impulses or inclinations: I should eat less sugar. I shouldn’t be addicted. 

Many or most of these are beliefs held by our parents, teachers, friends and so on. They are in our culture, they are transmitted to us, and there are social dynamics at work to encourage us to adopt them (shame, guilt, pride, ridicule, rejection, acceptance, admiration), which means that many of these beliefs are really about others. For instance, if I am fat/unfit, people will judge me.

And then there are more basic beliefs: I am this body. It’s my body. It’s my thoughts. It’s my experience. It’s a body. It’s a thought. It’s an experience. It’s life. It’s death. It’s an impulse. It’s a drive. It’s from evolution. 

Universe fascinated by itself

The universe is fascinated by itself.

And in our case, the universe is fascinated by itself as an individual, a culture and a civilization, in all the ways we are fascinated by anything at all. At this level, there is no reason for it and it doesn’t need a reason.

In an evolutionary perspective, there is of course a reason. It makes good sense to be fascinated, to explore, experience, learn and so on. It aids survival to be interested in life, in our surroundings, in each other, in ourselves, in anything at all.

Today, this fascination is perhaps most obvious in our fascination in all forms of media – TV, internet, movies, podcast, music, performances, newspapers, magazines and so on. It’s an endless fascination where we absorb, experience, learn about ourselves, each other, the world,  and life.

It’s the fascination of the universe of itself, in all of these ways. It’s the universe evolved into a planet, and into a species for whom it makes evolutionary sense to be curious and interested in the world.

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Picky eaters

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina are compiling the first global registry of “picky eaters” in the hope of discovering why some people have trouble with food. They believe it may help find a genetic reason for some eaters’ intense dislike of certain foods, like broccoli, or beans with a “fuzzy” texture. They note some eaters’ pickiness is so deep-seated it interferes with their jobs, their relationships and their social lives. – Hate fish? Can’t eat veg? Doctors study picky eaters from BBC.

Empathy through evolutionary psychology: Picky eaters may survive better in some circumstances and omnivores in other, which is why we as humans have both possibilities, and why we as individuals are genetically predisposed to one or the other, and our environment brings one or the other out more prominently. It’s all natural.

Die Young, Live Fast, and compassion through evolutionary psychology

There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won’t just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society’s problems are – and it will suggest better solutions.
– from Die young; live fast, the evolution of an underclass in New Scientist

Another example of how evolutionary psychology can give us compassion for ourselves and others, and also practical guides for how to deal with individual and collective challenges.

Rumination

Rumination. It has a bad reputation in the psychology world, but where would we be without it?

Whenever is unresolved and important enough for us, attention goes there. Again and again.

It is an invitation to find a resolution, even if it is to a past event that only lives on in our minds.

We may find a resolution through talking about it with others. Especially if they don’t agree with us and offer a new and fresh viewpoint.

We may find a resolution through tiring of our old and habitual ways of approaching it, and finding another that works a little better. Such as taking responsibility for our own choices, actions, and how we relate to our inner and outer situation. Or exploring the beliefs behind it and finding what is more true and honest for us. Or even welcoming and allowing the stress that comes from it, with some compassion for ourselves.

I wouldn’t be surprised if rumination is not built into us by evolution.

If we stubbornly insist on approaching the topic of rumination the same way, then rumination is not so helpful for us.

But if we tire and change our approach, or are receptive to a new approach from the beginning, then rumination can be very helpful.

It is one of the ways we find resolution. Learn. Grow. Embrace more of our humanity.

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Quantum physics and evolution as pointers

The scientific approach in general is a good guideline and pointer for our own “spiritual” explorations.

And within science itself, it seems that the study of the very small and the very large both are fertile ground for pointers and guidelines for exploration.

Science in general helps us recognize that we don’t know. We operate from our own world of images and this is just a map. It may be very helpful in a practical sense in everyday life but there is no “truth” in it. Examples from quantum physics, the study of the very small, helps bring this home.

Through this, we notice that we may assume that there is an objective world “out there”, and it is helpful to act in daily life as if it is so, but this too is just an image. As is the images of a me and I (doer, observer). As we notice these images as images, as content of experience, there is an invitation for identification to release out of these images. We can still use any and all of them in a practical and pragmatic way, to help us function and orient in the world, but they are recognized as images, helpful tools only, and not any absolute truth. And we can notice what happens when there is identification with the viewpoints of some of these images, including the images of a me and I, and what happens when there is a softening or release of this identification and we are more free to play with and make use of these images while recognizing them as images only.

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Podcast: Written in code

Genes – what are they good for? Absolutely… something. But not everything. Your “genius” genes need to be turned on – and your environment determines that. Find out how to unleash your inner-Einstein, and what scientists learned from studying the famous physicist’s brain.

Also, the bizarre notion that your children inherit not just your genes, but also the consequences of your habits – smoking, stress, diet, and other behaviors that turn the genes on.

Plus Francis Collins on affordable personal genomes, and a man who decoded his own DNA in under a week.

Written in Code, the most recent podcast from Are We Alone? Science radio for thinking species, is excellent, as always. The segment on epigenetics is especially interesting.

Not happiness

As they like to point out in evolutionary psychology, we are designed for survival and reproduction, not for happiness. Happiness is just one of many emotions and impulses that guide choices and action, and have been selected for through the generatons. It is one of many “modules” that has a survival and reproductive value for us, and is not a goal in itself – although it certainly may appear that way for us at times.

And it seems that it is the same from the perspective of the universe as a whole, or reality, or God. The universe express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways, in its infinite richness, and one of the ways it does this – at an obvious level – is through evolution. The universe evolves from energy to matter to galaxies to solar systems to living planets to ecological systems to social systems to technology, science, and art, and the everyday experiences of any being – and in all of these ways it express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways. Happiness is one of innumerable facets of how it explores and experiences itself.

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Why does attention go to what bothers us?

When I get a small rock in my shoe, attention goes there allowing me to notice it and do something about it.

And that is an example of a much more general pattern. Attention goes to what bothers me, so I can notice it and do something about it.

Sometimes, I do something about it in the world, like removing a pebble from my shoe. Other times, I notice and inquire into a belief. Or there is a combination.

So why does attention to go what bothers us?

In an immediate sense, it is easily explained. Something feels off, so attention goes there so we can do something about it. If it is resolved, attention moves on. If it is not resolved in a satisfying way, attention will tend to return.

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